My Life in Stamps

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today….PACIFIC 97

On May 29, 1997, I entered the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, on the opening day of the massive PACIFIC 97 World Philatelic Exhibition. To date, this is still the only international (or, even national) stamp event that I’ve participated in. To say the least, I was extremely impressed and overwhelmed by what was the largest stamp show to be held in the United States that decade (the first one ever on the West Coast) and I have many fond memories of the two weeks I spent there. This was the absolute peak of my philatelic life!

I had flown to San Francisco the day before from my then-home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For the duration of the show, I stayed with my aunt and uncle at their home in Walnut Creek on the opposite side of San Francisco Bay. Each morning, I would take the BART train into the city and spend most of the morning at the Moscone Center. My afternoons were usually spent sightseeing in my favorite city of the United States. One afternoon, I unexpectedly ran into my sister and brother-in-law on Fisherman’s Wharf. I had no idea they were vacationing there as well, having come in from Kansas City.

[L to R:] Uncle Ed, brother-in-law Keith, sister Marilyn, ME! and cousin David in Walnut Creek, California, circa May/June 1997
[L to R:] Uncle Ed, brother-in-law Keith, sister Marilyn, ME! and cousin David in Walnut Creek, California, circa May/June 1997

The numbers are impressive: there were 3,584 competitive frames exhibited as well as another 100 in the Court of Honor and 15 frames devoted to special exhibits. This computes to around 60,000 stamp album pages of material to look at. The total length of the rows of frames was just under two-and-a-half miles! Fifty-seven different countries were represented by these exhibits with particular emphasis on Pacific Rim participants. George Kramer won the Grand Prix National with “Across the Continent — Mail across the American Continent before the Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869,” which included the greatest Pony Express rarities. It was the first time a U.S. postal history exhibit had earned that honor. Two collectors from Thailand won the other top prizes: the Grand Prix International went to Pichai Burenasombate for “Classics of Great Britain,” and the Grand Prix d’Honneur went to Surajet Gongvatana for “Siam.”

More than 200 stamp dealers had booth and a number of philatelic auctioneers were in attendance (I sold my U.S. #1 and #2 as well as a Penny Black in one of the auctions). More than 130 different postal administrations were represented. My fondest memories are of visiting EVERY SINGLE ONE of the post office booths to buy at least one stamp (which was duly affixed into my philatelic passport and postmarked with each administration’s cancellation). I recall HUGE lines at the Hong Kong booth as the then-British colony was due to be handed-back to China the following month. The PACIFIC 97 Philatelic Passport is the item I most regret not bringing with me when I eventually moved to Thailand — an irreplaceable souvenir now lost forever.

Another highlight for me was the daily preparation of covers. The U.S. Postal Service released several stamps and postal stationery items at the exhibition. These included the first-ever triangular stamps released by the United States, a pair of souvenir sheets commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first U.S. stamps and featuring die proofs of the original designs, and two very attractive postal cards portraying the Golden Gate Bridge. The Franklin and Washington souvenir sheets created some controversy as they were only available for the duration of the show (the Washington sheet from May 30). Each day also had special USPS postmarks so it was quite fun preparing combination covers to receive the various cancellations available. I no longer have any of these (all remained in America when I made my cross-Pacific move), but I do remember making one or two very large covers that bore every available USPS cancellation (the first days and special days) that were available during the length of my stay.

There were a few interesting books published at PACIFIC 97 as well, including one about the Pan American Clippers. The 1997 edition of the American Philatelic Congress Book doubled as the PACIFIC 97 Handbook and contained many scholarly articles related to the themes of the show. There were many freebies on offer; Avery-Dennison distributed “dummy” self-adhesive stamp booklets and there were beautifully-engraved souvenir cards by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing available. It was also the first international stamp show to include a section for philatelic software.

Looking back, I feel that I was a rather unorganized collector. At PACIFIC 97, I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy shop — overwhelmed by the choices available. I like to believe that I’m much more organized in my present philatelic pursuits. I do long to attend another large stamp show. They seem to have one or two each year in Bangkok with a larger regional show every six or seven years. There are also shows in Malaysia and Singapore which are definitely within range (and budget!). The problem is finding details on these shows with enough advance notice to actually plan a trip! I often find out about the Thai exhibitions when there is a photo in the newspaper (usually of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn opening the show). There must be a better way…

The slideshow below displays some items I’ve restored to my collection recently and a few I once had but now need to replace. When I came to southern Thailand more than 12 years ago, I  never thought that I would stay so long. I was in one of those periods of “non-collecting” and never thought about picking up my tongs again. It wasn’t long before the philatelic bug bit me once again but, by then, it was too late as I’d instructed my sister to sell off the entire contents of my storage unit in New Mexico. The only items I requested her to “save” were certain music albums and a few books. If only….

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My Life in Stamps

Birthday Covers, Revisited

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Last year, I read a thread on one of the stamp collecting online forums about a man who collected covers postmarked on his birthday each year. I set out to do something similar and quickly found that this is no easy task. The search parameters I used on eBay tended to generate lists of magazine covers (mostly TV Guide or Life Magazine); changing the year didn’t help much. I considered going through the Scott Catalogue looking for stamps issued on or near my birthday each year. Searching through the issues of the United States first, I only found one — a stamp released on my fourth birthday (1969). However, I soon tired of the boredom of this task.

I did find an Air France first flight cover (Paris to Las Palmas) dated December 5, 1965, two days after the date on my birth certificate but the date I’ve celebrated each year since moving to Thailand a decade ago. This is because it is a national holiday here as His Royal Highness the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born on December 5. Due to the nature of my adoption, however, the exact date of my birth is uncertain. The French cover is illustrated in an entry I wrote for Philatelic Pursuits on May 11, 2016.

Recently, I wanted to add more German stamps to my collection, specifically those with a philatelic theme such as portrayed on the annual Stamp Day (Tag der Briefmarke) issues. My search soon expanded to Austria and I quickly found covers bearing the 1965 Stamp Day issue (Scott #B321) and realized the postmark actually had my date of birth within — December 3, 1965. From the same seller, I managed to find three different first day covers of this stamp: one with a regular circular CDS from Vienna, one with a pictorial first day of issue cancellation, and one from an international stamp exhibition held at the Vienna Messepalast as this was the 30th annual Austrian Stamp Day. The first was held in 1935, the year of my father’s birth.

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The stamp itself is denominated at 3s and bears a 75g surcharge to support Stamp Day. The engraved blue green stamp portrays a postman distributing mail into mailboxes. It is perforated 13½ x 14.

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The sole United States stamp issued on my birthday was Scott #1386, an entry in the American Painting series. The 6-cent stamp portrays William M. Harnett‘s still-life entitled “Old Models” which can be seen at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. The stamp was designed by Robert J. Jones and was issued in panes of thirty-two, with an initial printing of 130 million. Released on December 3, 1969, the stamp is perforated 11.

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I have many December 5th covers from Thailand. There were releases on His Majesty the late King’s birthday throughout his long reign (May 2016 was the 70th anniversary of his ascension). I believe last year’s issue (due to commemorate that 70th anniversary) was pulled as it disappeared from the schedule following his death on October 13. I never could get an answer at the local post office about it, either. The 2016 Thailand Post yearbook has yet to be issued (it’s usually available by early February) and the 2017 stamp release schedule doesn’t currently include anything on December 5.

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Maybe it’s time to start looking for a few of those elusive non-philatelic usages….

 

My Life in Stamps

A Birthday Cover

Not too long ago, I read a thread on the Stamp Bears forum which talked about one collector’s pursuit of covers posted on his birthday.  Most of his covers were regular mail (what we philatelists like to call “postal history”) and he talked about how difficult it was to find such items while flipping through dealers’ boxes at stamp shows or searching on eBay.  Despite having only the latter source available to me here in Thailand, I was inspired enough by the forum thread to begin my own pursuit of a birthday cover or several.

The date on my birth certificate reads December 3, 1965.  I was adopted sometime in late December 1965 or early January 1966 and have long had the understanding that December 3rd wasn’t my actual date of birth.  When I moved to Thailand more than a decade ago, I discovered that His Majesty the King, the much revered Bhumipol Adulyadej (known in the West as Rama IX), was born on the 5th of December which is also Thai Father’s Day.  Thus, I began celebrating my birthday on this particular date as it’s a national holiday.

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I soon found that it was easier to search for philatelic covers (first day covers, first flight covers, etc.) using dates than for postal history items.  I have yet to find anything on eBay with a 3 December 1965 date but came upon this first flight cover from Paris to Las Palmas posted on 5 December 1965 and quickly purchased it.  A couple of nice Paris Aviation postmarks grace the front while it’s backstamped with a Las Palmas arrival postmark, also on my “adopted” birthdate.

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I also found a number of first day covers with December 3rd postmarks from other years, giving me the idea for a new collection rather than just a one-off cover.  While I hope to find something posted on 3 December 1965 (preferably from Dallas, Texas, as this was where I was born – in Parkland Memorial Hospital, to be exact), I will seek out covers from as many as the following birthdays as possible.  These will be from the 3rd of December up until 2006, the first year I celebrated a birthday in Thailand after which I will search for covers postmarked on the 5th of December (much easier as most years see an issue honoring His Majesty released on that date).

I think these will make a great addition to the “My Life In Stamps” collection I’ve already started, helping me to organize that along more chronological lines rather than thematically.  As always, the pursuit will be as much fun as the additions…

My Life in Stamps, Supplies, Today's Mail

Today’s Mail–1st September 2015

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The first day of September brought more stamps to my home than I received in all of August.  I’ve been working on several thematic collections lately, including one dealing with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Although he is famous in philately as for having been an avid stamp collector, very few stamps have been issued portraying him as such.  I didn’t receive any of those today (already owning the issue from Monaco) but a mix of 30 stamps from Central and South American countries issued in commemoration of his 1945 death are a nice addition to my FDR topical collection.  I couldn’t resist the cover pictured below which was sent to Mr. Roosevelt at the White House from France, formerly a part of the presidential collection.

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In honor of my upcoming 50th birthday, I am also putting together a collection on pages showing “My Life In Stamps.”  I was adopted within the first month of my birth back in December 1965, through Hope Cottage in Dallas TX, and wanted to find a few stamps bringing attention to the adoption of children.  I’ve only found one – Scott #3298 from the United States, issued in 2000 – and bought a first day cover with Fleetwood cachet.

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Finally, I received a packet of Stanley Gibbons stamp hinges which weren’t a humidity-glued solid mass as were the packages of Prinz hinges received a couple of months ago.  I can’t wait until I have a bit of free time so that I can hinge a few hundred stamps onto my self-printed pages, finally getting them out of the stock pages and into a “real” album…

Happy Collecting!

Collecting Worldwide, My Life in Stamps, Postcards, Today's Mail

Today’s Mail – 13th August 2015

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Another rainy week of no mail deliveries (better than receiving soaked mail) and a national holiday on Wednesday for HM the Queen’s birthday (celebrated as Thai Mothers’ Day), brought a welcome – albeit small – stack of mail this afternoon.  Three eBay wins brought seven stamps, including a thought-lost order from Slovakia which took almost two months to arrive as well as stamps from the 265th country in my collections – Tasmania.

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The stamp arriving from Bratislava is a nice Austria Scott #45, 20 kreuzer gray issued in 1883.  But the reason I purchased this particular stamp was the very nice Joachimstal postmark (applied upside down), an addition to a loose collection based on my surname.  From the German Democratic Republic, I now have Scott #91 – 12 pfennig deep blue stamp picturing a father and his children with their stamp collection, issued on 28 October 1951 to mark Stamp Day (Tag der Briefmarke). 

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Scan_20150814 (8)Tasmania is a “new” country for me and I received five examples from the pictorial series which had eight different designs but were printed using several different printing methods (engraving, lithography and typography), perforation gauges and watermarks between 1899 and 1911, plus one surcharge in 1912.  I have tentatively identified my additions as Scott #88, the 2p violet picturing Hobart issued engraved in 1899; Scott #94, ½p green picturing Lake Marion printed by lithography and issued in 1902-03; Scott #95, 1p carmine, Scott #96, 1p dull red, both portraying Mount Wellington and issued in 1902-1903 – the carmine stamp is lithographed and the dull red is printed by typography; and Scott #97, another 2p violet with a view of Hobart, printed in lithography.  I think… (I seem to have misplaced my perforation gauge this evening…)

Scan_20150814 (13)-cropFinally, I received two postcards – one from my sister who was vacationing in California earlier this month and a Postcrossing card from Russia.  The stamps on each are of interest in that each country has different approaches to postmarking nowadays.  Most mail that I receive from the United States are festooned with what I find to be very ugly ink jet spray-on markings.  Often the stamps aren’t cancelled at all as in the case of the trio of Jimi Hendrix stamps (Scott #4880, issued in 2014) on the card from my sister.  She recently told me that she’d requested a postal clerk to handstamp a letter to me but was told that they “don’t do that anymore.”  The card from Russia, on the other hand, received two nice handstamps on the four stamps (three from a 2009 set of icebreakers and one 2008 stamp showing a bridge in Moscow).

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I’ll write about these postcards very soon on “Please, Mr. Postman!” – my blog about postcards and the subjects they portray.

Happy Collecting!

Collecting Worldwide, Education on Stamps, My Life in Stamps

Today’s Mail – 17th July 2015

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This has been a slow mail week but today brought two orders – one from the UK and one from the United States.  The four stamps pictured above are from the Kathiri State of Seiyun which was in the Eastern Protectorate of Aden, a nation I’ve become rather fond of recently.  Unfortunately, I’m missing one of the UPU anniversary stamps as I was outbid on eBay in the last second!

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The first day cover contains a block of four Scott #1098, issued in 1957 to honor teachers of America.  I’m slowly buying stamps portraying education as part of a collection I’m putting together to illustrate “My Life in Stamps”; I have been an English teacher in Thailand for almost nine years now. 

Collecting Worldwide, My Life in Stamps, Pioneers of Aviation, Places I've Visited, Today's Mail, Topical Pursuits

Today’s Mail – 7th July 2015

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Another day, another mail delivery, another new country.  I’m really enjoying the current streak of receiving at least one piece of mail each day.  Gives me something to look forward to on the bus journey home from work.  I’ve noticed that eBay sellers from certain countries such as India, Israel, anywhere in Eastern Europe, etc. don’t get bid on as much as those in the United States, the UK, Germany, or Australia.  I don’t know if that’s out of fear the items won’t arrive or some other reason but I’ve picked up stamps at a steal by looking for these sellers.  I’ve never had one go astray…

This was my first auction won from India and the stamps arrived in less than two weeks, nicely packaged.  The best part is that the seller didn’t try to make the stamps even more secure by enclosing the glassine envelopes or stock cards with copious amounts of tape.  This seems to be the habit of far too many dealers and I’m always afraid that I will damage the stamps when attempting to peel or cut away the tape.  At any rate, I’ll be bidding on this seller’s auctions again very soon.

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Seven stamps arrived – three from Cambodia released on 12 April 1986 showing Angkor-style ruins.  They are the three low values (Scott #677-679) from a set of seven promoting Khmer culture and are set for inclusion in a thematic collection I’m calling “My Life in Stamps”, specifically in a section of stamps portraying places I’ve visited.

The remaining four stamps are my first from the People’s Republic of Congo and were issued on 17 December 1993 to mark the 90th anniversary of manned flight.  Scott numbers 1049 to 1052 feature the Wright Brothers and the Model B Flyer in flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  They are, of course, additions to my “Pioneers of Aviation” topical collection so I’ll have to so I’ll have to find another PR of Congo stamp to add to the ASFEW album…

Happy Collecting!